Frank was born and raised in New Jersey. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in Communications in 1994 and he earned a JD from the Cleveland Marshall College of Law in 2001. He currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio, where he has been a criminal defense attorney for fifteen
His latest novel, the dark fantasy “Eye of the Storm” has just been released from Ravenswood Publishing. He is also the author of “The Lucifer Messiah” and the weird western “The Hand of Osiris.”
His short fiction has appeared in venues such as Another Realm, Ray Gun Revival, Every Day Fiction and Lost Souls. He has worked in the Warhammer universe, penning the novella “Into the Valley of Death” included in the “Gotrek & Felix: Lost Tales” collection as well as a number of short stories available as part of Black Library’s “the Best of Hammer and Bolter: Volume 2.”
You can see more about him at http://www.frankcavallo.com/.
Talking with Frank Cavallo
S&S: Characters out of Time/ in a different world is a theme that keeps popping up in science fiction and fantasy novels. What do you think is so attractive about it?
Frank Cavallo (FC): On the one level, it’s probably just the allure of an adventure that’s not possible here at home. That’s a liberating thing, in and of itself, to escape from the world as we know it.
There’s also the “what if” factor. What if you really could be in a place with dinosaurs or barbarians, etc? How would you handle it, what would it be like to go on an adventure not just through an imaginary world, but through a world with things that were real at one time, but are now long gone? There’s that added dimension of being able to imagine touching something that is now just out of reach. I think that’s a little more exciting than imagining a world that never was at all.
S&S: Can you tell us a bit about the protagonists in Eye of the Storm?
FC: There are four main characters, two from our world and two from the “other” world. On our side are Eric Slade and Anna Fayne. Slade is a former Navy SEAL who used to be kind of a bad ass special ops guy, but has retired to become a self-promoting reality TV personality. He’s a bit of a jerk, but landing in a prehistoric world forces him back to being who he really is at heart—a bad ass warrior.
Dr. Fayne is an academic who turns out to be much tougher than anyone realized, including herself. Her curiosity, her intelligence and and her resilience end up impressing everyone she meets, and puts her in a position to play a huge role in her new world.
On the “other” side are Threya, the Red Queen and Kerr, the crippled leper. Threya is a match for Slade in every respect, a warrior queen who can stand against anyone in battle. Kerr is her trusted friend and advisor, who suffers from a debilitating physical condition and a long-standing, unrequited love for his Queen. His cunning and scheming, as well as his crippling illness, lead him to play an unexpected role just as important as Dr. Fayne’s.
S&S: What was the hardest part of writing Eye of the Storm?
FC: Finding the right “approach” to the story. I wrote this novel several times, in several different ways. Initially, it was more of a traditional “self-contained” fantasy, a story set in an invented world about the goings on of the people who live there. To me, the story never fully worked that way though, and in later drafts I switched gears and re-wrote it entirely as a book about people from Earth stranded in a fantasy world. Even then, I wasn’t 100% sure that was the right choice, since stories like that have often been the subject of critical derision and the more serious fantasy literature seems to be found in the mold of “A Song of Ice and Fire” – which was what I was trying to do originally. But in the end, I felt like the pieces came together the right way with the second approach. It wasn’t an easy decision, though.
S&S: Your other two published novels – The Lucifer Messiah & Hand of Osiris – seem to have a strong focus on supernatural evil. Will Eye of the Storm have a similar theme even though it looks more fantasy based?
FC: Great question. This book is a bit of an outlier for me. There isn’t really a “supernatural” element behind anything. There are dark forces and powerful entities, but they all hail from a more science fiction type of source. Advanced technology that looks like magic to pre-industrial people, alien life forms from other planes of existence, that appear to be ghoulish, etc.
In other words, I’m trying to do something a little different with this one.
S&S: I know you list H.P. Lovecraft as one of your influences. Where do you think that comes through in your work?
FC: He had a real knack for injecting the creepy and other-worldly into mundane, “normal” life. I love that and it’s one of the things I’m always trying to do. I also love how evocative his prose could be when describing those things. He was really gifted in his ability to set a scene and to draw up a horrifying vision of the “things from beyond.”
S&S: Sticking with the Lovecraft theme for one more question, what about his work was so attractive to you?
FC: My favorite thing about his work is the world-view that underlies all of it. Traditional horror has its roots in the classic good vs evil struggle. The Exorcist or the Omen are scary because of the belief that there is a real Satan out there who is at least interested enough in the human race to want to interfere with it, even if it is to damn our souls to Hell. The flip side of that, of course, is the idea of a counterbalanacing power of “good.” In this scenario humanity is important because it’s central to the eternal conflict.
On the other hand, the notion that animated Lovecraft’s work is that it’s far worse to imagine a universe where humanity is inconsequential. That the vast black gulfs of space and time are dominated by powerful forces who regard us as unworthy of attention, when they consider us at all. There’s no ultimate force of good, and no true evil, just a chaotic universe of unfathomable darkness that cares very little for us. That is much more interesting to me, and much more frightening.
S&S: Does Eye of the Storm have any current social commentary in it? If so, did you do it deliberately or did it just sort of happen?
FC: As luck would have it, you’ve caught me on the book which has the least attempt at social commentary of any I’ve written. You mentioned my earlier stuff a minute ago, Lucifer Messiah was a horror story about a search for identity and about the folly of relying on old religious texts to inform your choices. Osiris was about dealing with guilt and the question of whether redemption is truly possible. This one…it’s mostly just a pulp-fiction inspired adventure story without much commentary.
S&S: What’s the most important thing that being a writer has taught you?
FC: To have a thick skin. You can’t get into this if every critique is going to bother you. Some people will like your work, but others won’t. You can’t take it personally, it’s just part of the business.
S&S: What theme defines the fantasy genre right now, in your opinion?
FC: The fantasy genre as a whole? I’m probably a terrible person to ask, because I just don’t read much of it anymore. I used to consume everything I could get my hands on from guys like Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and Michael Moorcock. But newer stuff hasn’t grabbed me in the same way.
S&S: Have you ever memorialized someone (be it human, dog, or kitty, etc) that you loved in one of your works?
FC: I like to insert the names of friends and family into my books. Not necessarily as an “in memoriam” but as a little nod to the people in my life. Many of the incidental characters in my books, the ones who pop up for only a chapter or who just get referenced in passing, are named for real people. Everyone seems to get a kick out of it.
S&S: Has any of the ideas for your various stories come from dreams or nightmares that you’ve had?
FC: No, I’m one of those people who rarely even remembers my dreams, and when I do it’s never anything worth writing about. So when I do have nightmares, and I can manage to recall them, they’re always about things like being back in high school and realizing that I haven’t studied for a final exam. Scary, in their own way, but nothing really horrific.
S&S: Finally, do you have another novel already in the works?
FC: I do! Thanks for asking. It’s called Rites of Azathoth due out early in 2017. We’re in the process of proofing the galleys right now, so I’m currently driving my editor crazy with notes about minor changes. In keeping with the Lovecraft theme from earlier, this one is a horror-thriller about an FBI agent hunting a serial killer who is obsessed with doing the bidding of Azathoth and the Great Old Ones. It’s actually already available for pre-order from the Necro Publications website.
On a research mission in one of the most remote regions of the world, former Navy SEAL Eric Slade and Dr. Anna Fayne are caught in a mysterious storm. Catapulted through a rift in space-time, they are marooned on a lost world.
Struggling to survive and desperate to find a way home, they must confront the dangers of this savage land—a dark wizard and his army of undead—a warrior queen and her horde of fierce Neanderthals that stands against him—and a legendary treasure with the power to open the gateway between worlds, or to destroy them all: the Eye of the Storm. – Goodreads
Purchase Eye of the Storm now on Amazon | Barnes & Noble.